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Marketing professionals can get so wrapped up in the next big thing that they forget the oldie-but-goodies.

And campaign tags are high on the list of classic hits.

Campaign tags help you understand how customers engage with your digital media.

Tagging 101

The definition of campaign tags is pretty straightforward: digital tags that identify a marketing campaign for an analytics solution.

But what's involved? 

Well, even if you're new to digital marketing, you may have seen them without realizing it when arriving to an online article or landing page through a paid search ad.

The tags are those extensions you see at the end of a URL, the ones you see after clicking on a paid search ad on a search engine. 

So in an example URL — say www.yourbrand.com — the URL is appended with pieces of additional data meant to describe it further.

The descriptions are typically related to a marketing campaign. 

The descriptions identify a source, a medium type like a banner ad or paid search ad, a campaign name and maybe some additional information.

So a UTM tag for a CMSWire banner ad on new shoes campaign from you.com would look like this:

www.you.com/utm_source=cmswire&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign_newshoe

Some analytic tools beside Google Analytics will read UTM tagging nomenclature because paid search — and thus, the tags — have become ubiquitous.

A little trivia: The UTM acronym — Urchin Tracking Modules — is a legacy from Urchin Software, a Google acquisition in 2005 that created the early version of Google Analytics that we know today. 

Other analytic tools employ different extensions, but with a similar description structure. Adobe Analytics appends an id with a ?, for example, to represent a campaign.

The New Landscape

But no matter which analytics tool is used, most professionals agree that the value for campaign tags is in flux.

UTM tags were necessary to help Google Analytics discern paid search traffic from traffic arriving via a search engine. They also link ads to ROI measurement. 

In recent years the use of UTM tags has expanded. Now they can be inserted on a number of media, thanks to the expanded methods of digital marketing online. 

Some common examples include links in mobile apps, links is social share buttons, QR codes and social posts of all kinds, from a Pinterest pin to a tweet. 

Thus campaign tags can capture rich information about where referral traffic is coming from. 

They provide insight into cross device measurement, since many of the media sources are also accessed by smartphone or tablet. Campaign tags serve as a key in establishing ROI for the value of digital channels.

And There's More

Another reason campaign tags are essential stems from the increased scrutiny of referral traffic in analytics reporting. 

This is the Internet of Things (IoT) era, and there are ever increasing ways for people to arrive at websites or engage with apps.

Campaign tags highlight the sources that are expected. So if a campaign includes a URL associated with a device, the interaction with that page provides valuable measurement.

Scrutiny has also heightened interest in discerning quality traffic. 

The rise of spambot traffic has spawned numerous posts from analytic practitioners.  

As detailed in a Google Plus hangout from John Mueller and other various announcements, Google is addressing this issue. The spambot has appeared frequently in certain referral traffic reports and has caused analytic practitioners to debate solutions.    

Determine Objectives

Marketers should develop a tagging objective for every site, landing page and marketing purpose that matches the customer experience.

Start by following these two steps:

Determine how a group of campaigns can be managed. There is a URL tag builder tool online, but it can create one campaign tag at a time. Some SEM professionals create a batch of campaign tags in an excel spreadsheet, with tabs for different campaign purposes. Organization is key for discerning how campaigns can be deployed against a budget. 

Plan campaigns labels around customer activity or events. The world has gone mobile and other customer search behaviors have come with that trend.

AdWords and Bing campaign options can set ads so that the message appears in a nuanced way that complement customer needs for a service or product.

If you're a Jiffy Lube retailer and offer periodic oil change specials, for example, an idea is to plan ads that customers can view periodically that remind them when their car should be serviced. Planning campaigns to connect a message to your customer audience or seasonal trends can enhance the choices for naming descriptions.

Campaign tagging offers a visibility on marketing effectiveness. Without it, it would be difficult to assess how well social media, ads and content marketing resonate with customers. 

With campaign tags, the task of starting an assessment will seem less overwhelming and the ROI of your digital marketing efforts will improve to offer the best useful insights.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by sashafatcat.